One of the perks of being a PCMI volunteer is that I have 7 individuals from my cohort (well, now 6 since Lexi took the early COS option… I miss her dearly) to share stories and compare experiences with. Particularly over the last couple of weeks. Especially as all of my fellow volunteers in country whom I would normally turn to have been faced with their own personal crises. My sister and some friends back home do their best, but it’s clear that they have little idea of what to say or how they can help. Not that I make it easy for them, I’m a mess. I find it difficult to clearly express how this entire situation makes me feel and often don’t even fully understand the notions of guilt, sadness, anger, anxiety and even excitement that swirl around in my muddled mind. I’ve gotten to the point where I just push it all aside and attempt to barrel through, focusing on what needs to happen today rather than on what is in store and why.
Anyway, my PCMI friends help. Even though they’re all over the world they understand the struggle of integration, the arduous process of building relationships, the confusion in attempting to define and refine your role and, most importantly, the unique and sacred bond you create with your community. They get why this is hard. Their support helps me and soothes me like words from home can’t.
Today I realized I’ve become lucky enough to add another perspective to my arsenal. I went to college with Gracie who is embarking on her own Peace Corps adventure in Zambia. Gracie and I have had a variety of shared adventures over the past few years and I have to say that when you think of the quintessential Peace Corps volunteer you probably think of someone a lot more like Gracie than like me. She’s more idealistic, gregarious, giving, open, trusting and, well, granola-y than I am. She is reveling in the opportunity to live simply (without water and electricity even) and her first blog posts are filled with things I’ve either never felt or have lost during my 15 months of service. My fellow volunteers (in country and PCMI) offer a chance to process what is happening and have my feelings validated while Gracie’s point of view is a reminder of where I have been and how I have changed. It’s a chance to evaluate and a wake up call.
I realize it’s time to regain some of the fresh volunteer vitality I once had. I face an uncertain few months, but I owe it to this new community, wherever it may be, to serve them with an open-mindedness and earnestness untainted by frustration and disappointment. The “me” aspect in my service seems to have steadily grown over the course of the past few months and I think a lot of my issues with this experience are due to my own neglect of the Peace Corps philosophy and the commitment to give and grow that should be at the core of it all. I’ve never been a perfect volunteer and never will be, but I can do better. Hopefully this is the key to a satisfaction with my service that has eluded me thus far.